Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Us and Them or WE?

For quite some time now I have been looking very closely at individualism versus the collective and I have become very aware of the FACT that we are indeed a collective, even if we are fragmented and even if most of the people within the collective are unable to see that, we are still living as a collective.

What I have learned has made its way into my speech and I have noticed that people cannot think laterally in terms of the Tribal principles of ‘us and them’.  To put it very plainly people see differences and they foster differences.  They see similarities as well but the similarities they see are made on a much more selective basis.  What happens is people will identify themselves with some types of people but not with other types of people and we all do this instinctively, this is the basis of Tribalism and it is as normal to us as the opposable thumb.

When I am speaking about people I have gotten to a point where I generalise a lot.  I do this because I have been looking at things from many different points of view and I am coming up with much more inclusive paradigms with regard to the behaviour of large groups of people.  An important note here is that it is very difficult to think in terms of large groups of people and this is why so many of us don’t bother, it is easier to just accept what appears simple and so intolerance becomes widespread for this reason.  Once more I don’t think I am better than anyone by thinking this way and I do think that oversimplifying our human nature is the cause of so much of our difficulty and as I have said many times before few people realise that they are part of the problem.

If you see things from many different points of view you are taking others into consideration.  I have only been teaching myself this construct recently, for most of my life I was completely unable to look at things this way and so I had a lot of difficulty.  To see how things have changed I can give a simple for instance,  I can clearly see how the conflict in Northern Ireland works and I can understand the concerns of both sides of the community. 

For most of us when we look at a problem such as this we have difficulty understanding the behaviour of those two sides do you know why this is?

When someone looks at the Northern Ireland issue they see it solely through their own eyes.  Most of us are civil and law abiding so we cannot fathom how anyone could ‘choose’ anger and violence and that’s the crux we see it as being something these people ‘choose’ to do.  Yet from the point of view of those involved it is not a choice at all.  The differences between those who are socially and emotionally settled and those who are not is the key to grasping this.  You cannot look at people who are in completely irrational situations and rationalise what they are going through, it doesn’t work.  When I look at Northern Ireland I see the History and present as being intertwined and I see clearly that since it is all concurrent it is impossible to take the present without it being in the context of the past.

Individualism is too easy and it causes a kind of detachment of people who are engaged in it.  We are brought up to believe that if we take care of number one and work hard everything will be alright, well if that were the case we would be living in a much more balanced society wouldn’t we?  As it turns out there is clearly something wrong with our society but the majority of people won’t care to admit that and those who do usually blame the Foreigners or the Politicians for what’s wrong. Something else happens though people cannot see themselves in the same light as everyone else so they are much more likely to overlook their own wrongs and focus on others.

The actualities of modern life are much more stark than most people will ever realise, we are all still locked in a game of survival of the fittest which has simply evolved to take our new social surroundings and standings into consideration, the same rules apply though.

On quite a few occasions in the last year or so people have stopped me during conversations and asked me why I keep saying ‘We’.  I found this strange.  People use the word ‘We’ very selectively and they use it only when they are putting themselves in the context of people with whom they identify.  Listen to peoples speech and you will get a sense of this if they are talking about their family and friends they will use the word ‘We’ but if the conversation switches to wider society they will begin categorising others as being different than themselves.  This is very common and it doesn’t just happen in broken communities like those of the Loyalists and Republicans everyone is engaged in this type of behaviour.

This makes it very clear that not only are ‘We’ deeply fragmented but we’re also using our speech to further foster these divisions.

Human beings are naturally very habitual creatures and above all else we will seek comfort.  We are also adverse to change and will do all in our power to find niches in which we fit and then use our social skills to make these niches as comfortable and continuous as possible.  This is why foreigners struggle to fit into new social climates, because often the native communities make it very difficult for them.  Because the natives make it difficult for the foreigners they then in turn get insular and will not socialise much outside their own groupings as a method of defence but the natives then use their inability to mix with them as a further reason for mistrust and so the lack of trust is made worse and worse but none of the groupings stop themselves and think about how their own behaviour is aeffecting the others and so intolerance continues unabated.  None of them realise either that the Us and Them syndrome in regard to migrant groups is ancient, it has been happening since the beginning of our species and is not new or different just because it is happening presently.

Are you aware of when and how you use the word ‘We’?  This is all down to identity and how we assert our own personal identity in the context of how we are as a species.  Be aware that there are classes within classes and that people will be constantly looking for ways to form splinter groups if they stop feeling comfortable or getting their own way.

‘WE’ are a collective.  We are all living on the same piece of land and if YOU have difficulty with other groups of people due to social and cultural differences it is YOU who are just as responsible for that as it is the others.  If you choose to be intolerant you are misusing your energy and creating the very problems that you are blaming others for.  YOU need to look at yourself and assess how your words, thoughts and actions are coming across.  YOU need to know that anger and gossip and intolerance are deeply divisive and YOU need to change your own ways and not sit around talking about how others need to change first.  If other groups are doing things which are to the detriment of the collective then that is their problem, not yours, sort yourself out and all else follows.

Peace and love.    

Monday, 18 March 2013

The power of words

I have touched before on how powerful language is and how much it can aeffect human beings and I have been thinking about this more and more recently.  It seems as we have become more (supposedly) civilised we have also become very complacent and sensitive.  This has happened in a relatively short space of time and that points to how quickly humans do actually change and adapt.  I am not sure how accurate estimations are and I am also not sure that anyone knows for sure exactly how long ago it was but the end of the worst of the last Ice Age is said to have been around 11 000 years ago and human beings in the Northern Hemisphere survived that.  Human beings then were not much different to how we are today in terms of instinct and emotion we are exactly the same as they were, the brain cases were exactly the same size so this is a good indicator of our similarity.  The amount of folds in an animals brain tells us how advanced the animal is and we have more folds than any other animals on this planet, that we know of.

It wasn’t only the Ice Age though, life was tough back then.  In physical comparison to many of the animals we would have been competing with human beings were weak.  We are talking big cats, bears and crazy wild dogs.  Our survival was dependent upon how clever we could be and that we were, the rest is History as they say, many of the predators we were in competition with have since become extinct while we, of course, are still going.  I often wonder though how many of the current population would survive in a world as harsh as the one our ancestors lived in.

Language made so much possible when it first began, we got technical, and it made it easy for ideas to spread much, much faster than previously.  Language coupled with successive population explosions caused an unprecedented rise of humanity from villages, to towns, to cities in a very short space of time.  The growth of what we call civilisation happened so fast and it is still happening.  The rise of civilisation caused something else though, it made it possible for people to live in ways that they had never previously lived, in safety, with large numbers of us living in close proximity with no immediate danger.  Obviously there is still danger in the form of natural disasters and war but I am talking collectively here.  Previous to the Modern Age we were much less settled and a lot more aggressive than we are now due to our environment.  While this settling down has been very beneficial for us in terms of health and safety and the growth of our personal and collective development it has also made us soft and complacent.

With aggression generally being less and less apparent and language still growing all the time human beings are getting to a point where they no longer need to use physical force, so the power of words is something which we use and something which has become very prevalent.  Words have just as much power as fists have and indeed as much power as any loving gesture.  Words are taken to be a form of assurance during times of uncertainty but as we all know as well as being resilient and very capable of survival human beings are also clever and capable of guile and they use words to mislead and manipulate.  As well as that though when people are insecure or depressed their words often will not mean anything and they may suffer from indecisiveness to the point that they will say one thing one minute and something contradictory the next, it may appear that they are liars or that they are being purposely deceptive but sometimes social, emotional and mental conditions can be causing their untrustworthy behaviour.

I think understanding human development across the ages is vitally important to putting our current state of being into context.  I know from just talking briefly to many people that few of us know about how our species developed and got to the present.  There is also a lot of misunderstanding about the Neolithic period, many people have this idea of humans then as lumbering beasts who were uncivilised when in fact this was a period when we developed farming and first domesticated animals.  Language was instrumental in every major revolution that took place because ideas could be interpreted and understood quicker and more easily than before.

I don’t want to go too far into the how’s and when’s of it all though I want to try and stick to our current heavy reliance on language in particular.  I remember first hearing the words “Sticks and Stones may break my bones names will never hurt me”  I was about six or seven living in Edenbeg, Craigavon and a girl who was about the same age as me was singing it to a couple of young lads who were winding her up, it is a very clear memory and I have thought about the meaning of that seemingly childish incident a lot ever since.  The basis of it is simple and the use of this little rhyme is widespread among children especially but it also gives a deep insight into how humans often use words to deflect perceived harm from others.  It is somewhat ironic as well because in reality words do a lot of damage and people use them purposely to hurt each other arbitrarily and often without needing provocation.  The use of the rhyme mirrors adult behaviour, people are often quick to deflect what other people say about them by using similar talk.  In the shady world of gossips if someone is talking about you then what you tend to do is then talk about them in return and thus the cycle continues but the essence of that little childish rhyme is more true than people may realise because the fact is that words are actually completely harmless, the harm they do is perceived.  If someone talks about you they could damage your character and just as having protection against physical attacks was prevalent in ages gone by being able to protect your social image has become the new norm.

I do think it is going too far though and it is getting worse just as any celebrity who goes on a drunken rant and finds that all of the companies who were using them to endorse their products have cancelled their contracts!  People like George Orwell really do appear to have been prophets when you actually look at how accurate his work was in terms of predicting how the world has developed.  Orwell envisaged a world where ‘thought crime’ would be in effect, if you are not familiar with his work I would highly recommend it.

How much words actually mean and how much people react to them was highlighted recently.  I think it was about a couple of months ago when I read about a New Yorker who was on trial for apparently plotting to eat people! I only know of this what I read about it at the time but he was a Cop and it is alleged that he used the police database to search for certain people who he had planned to murder and eat, his wife had found out about it by searching his computer and reported him to authorities.  A couple of weeks later it was then in British newspapers that a man from England had been chatting with someone in an internet chat room and he had went into great detail about cooking women!  He was arrested for this but he had claimed it was pure fantasy.  Now whether or not these two individuals were ever going to kill anyone is not the issue the issue is that they are being arrested and in the case of the New York Cop, put on trial, for saying they were going to do something.  I don’t know about you but if we start arresting and prosecuting people for saying they’re going to kill or for fantasising where is it going to end?

I have written violent poems about stabbing a person with a pen and writing my life story in their blood so I should really be arrested.  And what about people who write serial killer novels or directors who make violent movies like ‘The Human Centipede’?  Where does art end and intent begin I ask you?  Words are not actions so how much reliance should we put on the things that people say?  There are a lot of very disturbed people in the modern world and to be honest although I fully agree that we need to do all we can to protect the innocent I can also see that there are usually reasons for people becoming disturbed to the point of violence but should we start making people the subject of lengthy legal proceedings due to their thoughts and words?   I can also see that other people who don’t see themselves as doing anything wrong are adding to our societies disharmony with so much meaningless and often very hurtful language.  Although sticks and stones are not supposed to hurt they do and I believe that we should really be doing much more to make the next generation aware that words are the not half as much of an issue as we think they are.

In the age of the internet words can become weapons and they can hurt people greatly or in extreme cases even kill.  Some people especially teenagers are bullied to the point of suicide without any physical exchanges ever taking place.  You get so many sensitive people who cannot even bare to hear or say the word ‘shit’ let alone ‘fuck’!  What is that?  Why is that?  It is only a word, why is it alright to say excreta or crap but not shit, it’s the same thing, same shit! Other words as well like Beggar or Cripple or Cunt can nearly cause convulsions sometimes!  People get all uptight when you use certain words and I often think to myself that if we continue this way we are going to severely limit how much of our language we will be able to use all because some people are so sensitive that they cannot cope with mere words.  It baffles me how certain sections of society will be so high and mighty about what words you can and cannot say while at the same time they can morally and financially support regimes who are in the middle east murdering people wholesale, I don’t get that at all.

I am fascinated by language, by how it is used and interpreted and it really does say a lot about human development.  Ultimately though I do think we really need to stop being so stuck up about words.  When you look at how people use Facebook you really get a sense that even the most well meaning among us tend to become Trolls when faced with writing things about other people or to other people.  A lot of people who appear very quiet and shy on the surface can turn into literal monsters with those they know well or if they perceive that they’re being attacked.  The word attack is interesting when being used in regard to language because it isn’t an attack at all, it’s just talk.  The old adage about talking the talk and walking the walk is very true, most people only ever do the talking part.  We all have certain people who know how to get to us through what they say and though we may know this we still react.  Words are very effective in so many areas and yet they also do a large amount of damage.

Spoken word really started to get on my wick because I was listening to individuals who never actually do anything in terms of solve problems or help out in society, they do a whole lot of talking about it though.  I started to take a look at myself at one point and thought “If I go and do something about society instead of slobbering about it all the time my words will have ten times the meaning that they do now.”  and I have found this to be true and my writing has improved drastically due to my work, the two things compliment each other very well and I will continue on my current path with the greatest of gratitude because words mean nothing at all on heir own, you need to back them up with actions.  I have only learned this recently and I wish I had discovered it earlier.

I have a feeling I may add to this post at some because there is so much more that I feel I could say but for now…



Friday, 15 March 2013

Cannabis makes you paranoid! So watch your back!

When you speak to stoners they are always very quick to come up with a plethora of excuses about how much harm Cannabis does or doesn‘t do.  One major conclusion they draw is that alcohol is much more harmful, this is statistically true but that doesn’t make smoking weed regularly alright.  There is a song by The Streets, ‘The Irony of it all’, it’s called, about a kind of heated debate between a stoner and a heavy drinker which is very funny but in the real world denial is not a funny thing, it keeps people so enthralled with their drug of choice that it increases their chances of throwing their whole lives away or at least wasting years doing absolutely nothing with themselves.  I think it is a shame especially when young people start using Cannabis and you can see them becoming so withdrawn from the world.  Stoners often use the old excuse that “Weed is a natural substance” and that may well be but how it makes people behave is not natural and that’s a fact.

I started using drugs and alcohol very early and I continued for most of my life and to be blunt my lifestyle nearly killed me and that’s not an exaggeration. From I was 17 up until my mid twenties I used Cannabis daily.  For a lot of that time I used it with alcohol and with other drugs and despite all my past protestations it is not a good drug.  At some point when I was around 24 or 25 I started to notice that my favourite drug was not making me feel like it used to, I would get paranoid and very anxious when I smoked so for that reason I stopped using it, I kept drinking and taking other shit though!  It may not be addictive as such, in the same way that alcohol or Heroin are, but it does tend to be used very habitually.  Cannabis will put your life on hold if you use it regularly and it will cause you many social ills such as wanting to be alone or with very select company.  It will distort your concept of time and make you nonchalant about the important things in life such as relationships and how you treat your loved ones.

Weed is seen as causing people to be chilled but the stoners won’t tell you about their mood swings, occasional anger or social exclusion.  People who have a problem with using any substance will only ever tell you about the good it does and unfortunately most the good is usually perceived and driven by point blank denial.  If you know someone who uses drugs and you speak to them about it won’t take long before they start telling you about how good it is and they will pull out a string of clichés and myths to stop themselves from saying anything bad about their drug.  Occasionally you may get someone who does say about how harmful it is but they will let you know that they don’t care, this is advanced denial, where the truth is no longer able to be hidden but the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude remains!  Another thing people tend to do when they are faced with someone telling them the truth is to focus back onto that person and come up with past indiscretions and cries of “who do you think you are?!”  People who do this are clearly displaying an inability to look at themselves so they will always focus on others when they feel threatened in some way.

In the worst cases Cannabis can cause Psychosis.  You should goggle Cannabis Psychosis and read what it says.  I am not a very good person to argue with about this type of thing because I know about it first hand and while many people will say that it effects everyone differently there are many generalisations which can be made and conclusions which can be drawn about how harmful Cannabis is, it is very harmful.  It may not kill people directly but it does kill people indirectly.  Prolonged use causes depression which can lead to suicidal behaviour and even suicide attempts.  When you’re smoking you feel good but it isn’t real, it is a synthetic form of enjoyment and as with any forced sense of enjoyment after it has worn off you will feel the come down which is your body and minds way of telling you that is being imbalanced by what you are doing to it.

There is a terrible sense of foreboding when it comes facing reality, people don’t seem to like experiencing life naturally.  This has a lot to do with the way we have been taught how to deal with our emotions, we haven’t!  Life is amazing when it is experienced sober and hit free.  All that happens is that you will have a period of adjustment but it isn’t as bad as people think it is, there is nothing to be afraid of, life is good.  Life is what you make it so if you worry about it and think it is going to be terrible it will be terrible because you are constructing your own reality through your mind via your lifestyle.

When you feel good about yourself you become outgoing and social does Cannabis make you feel outgoing and social?  If you are using any substance 3 or 4 times every week you have a problem with it, it’s called dependency and you can give whatever facts or nonsense you like but dependency is dangerous because it will always get progressively worse.

I can categorically state that I know of three cases in particular where Cannabis has contributed to the deaths of young vibrant men who I knew personally and who I was friends with.  Each of these three particular cases involved suicide.  Cannabis was instrumental in their deaths because it became part of a whole lifestyle which ultimately caused a downward spiral of use and counter use and in the end the cycle of despair and depression killed them.  Of course Cannabis cannot be directly attributed to these or any other deaths but trust me it is and was a contributing factor.

There is something which is often mentioned about Cannabis, that is that it can lead to people taking other drugs.  This is often misunderstood.  Weed does not create urges to take other drugs rather it is guilty by association.  When a person becomes a drug user they begin associating in circles where other drugs are being used and thus their chances of exposure are increased. Another myth about drugs which needs to be understood and dispelled is that people who use drugs are somehow ‘bad’ people and that drugs are inherently evil and cause violence and anger, drugs can cause these unfavourable side effects but so does alcohol and so does not understanding your emotions.  Drugs are not ‘bad’ but they are dangerous and prolonged dependant use will cause many of the difficulties I have outlined here in these passages. 

Good and evil are constructs of the human mind and creating a set of circumstances whereby we label people as ‘bad’ due to drug use is unhelpful because we are merely helping to push them further into that world.  People who become regular users of any substance, alcohol included, are lacking something or other, they have difficulty facing reality and are probably shy and unable to express themselves naturally.  If we were all more accepting of one another and accepting of our own emotions the circumstantial conditions for widespread alcohol and drug abuse would not be as prevalent as they are.  When people do things that we consider to be ‘bad’ it’s like we put them on a metaphorical naughty step.  We treat each other a lot like we treat children and I suppose the fact that people in addictive cycles behave like children to some extent could be at least partially responsible for this but doing things this way does not help the people who have become habitual users to look at themselves or the processes by which they continue using their substances, making people feel worthless and ashamed of themselves will only further enhance their need to smoke because the people who are nagging them and the attitudes from society in general really just become more things that they need to hide from.  Regular users of any drug are doing just that, hiding, they don’t want to face the world probably because they have not yet developed the emotional strength to live up to the worlds expectations.  It is difficult being a modern human and we only make things tougher for ourselves and each other because of our inability to understand and accept our shared traits and modes of emotion.  

When a person is using substances regularly their sense of reality becomes warped and if you try to speak to them about it you are likely to lose your temper, this is not helpful.  While you may have the ability to look at what they are doing very rationally and concisely you must remember that they have lost this luxury not only because of the harmful side effects of the drug but also because of the cycle of denial.  Addiction is a process and what occurs is that the dependent person knows that it is going to be difficult to stop that and the euphoric feeling they get from it cause them to look for excuses.  Excuses are part of the condition always remember this, the addicted mind creates a series dead ends to stop itself from having to face the addiction.  You will get people who make a joke of it or get angry as they try to explain how much good Cannabis does even to the point of telling you that hemp is a natural substance used for making clothes and rope!  All of these side tracks are constructs of the addiction process and if you are dealing with a loved one who is a heavy user you should remain calm or you will be in danger of further damaging the relationship, remember it isn’t their fault that they cannot see sense it is the process of denial which causes this.   

Why am I doing this?  I have lost people and I personally lost my tiny mind!  I can see things now and I write these reams in the hope that every now and then one or two people will be able to use them to help themselves to a better more productive life.  I am not a complete person, I am flawed, I am not some beacon or role model, I am just someone who went all the way to the edge and for some reason came back.  This is why I came back, I have information about how human beings work which needs to be passed on and here I am passing it on!

Be good to yourselves and each other!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Are you Moody?

Peoples behaviour is based largely upon their moods, right?  Very obvious thing to say!  It is strange because we know this but you wouldn’t think we did when you take a look around.  So much of what everyone does is about giving up the ability to actively control our mood based behaviour, so instead when the mood takes us we simply behave as it instructs us to.  Worse than that though is our uncanny ability to know exactly how we are behaving but more or less say to ourselves “I don’t care, I am doing it anyway.”  This kind of copping out is a regular thing and some people take their moods to be such a part of them that they may even warn their partners or loved ones that they’re going into a mood!  Indeed in some cases peoples partners and families are so tuned into them that they know when to leave the person alone or to tread carefully!  It is different though depending on whether it is someone we know who is in a mood or a stranger, we are more likely to accept the moods of those we love and blame others we don’t know or dislike for the very same patterns of behaviour.

Some people also use their moods as a way of getting revenge, so someone has done something that they consider to be bad and they’ll maybe not speak to the person for a while or just sit about the place with a terrible face stuck to them to show the person that they’re unhappy.  I am aware that this is obviously an instinctive thing but I am just wondering about whether or not it is avoidable and also whether or not the people who use this type of behaviour regularly are actually secretly very unhappy and this is a kind of way to express that unhappiness without coming out and saying the ‘D’ word!  More important is do these people actually realise that behaving this way is very harmful to them personally and can have unseen aeffects on their relationships?

I am speaking generally of course but I am sure anyone reading this will know of people who behave this way, in fact we all do to some extent, but some of us seem to be more proficient a using our moods against others.  All this stems from how we have been taught and I don’t just mean direct instructions from parents.  When we are children we slowly learn how to behave largely by observing the behaviour of the people around us.  If you have young children around and you spend all your time arguing with your partner or being miserable the children will be aeffected by this.  Exactly how, why or even when we learn particular patterns of behaviour are not always obvious but most medical experts tend to believe that our personalities are formed in very early childhood, up until the age of about five.  I am not a parent so I can’t state this from experience but I think most people will agree that how parents behave is bound to have an aeffect on their children. 

Children who grow up in broken or unhappy homes are known to be much more likely to have social and emotional problems.  There are probably lots of stats for this, indeed I have seen quite a few but I don’t want to start quoting this stat or that stat.  I find peoples attitudes toward criminals especially interesting.  Most people who become involved in crime come from unfavourable social backgrounds but how the rest of society sees them is very abrupt.  When a person is young, probably up to about 13 or 14 and they’re having a tough time everyone feels really bad for them but as soon as the person gets to a certain age they automatically become scumbags.  This is odd because it is the same person and that person did not just wake up one morning and start having urges to do bad things it happened gradually over their whole lifetime.  People see the behaviour of others differently to how they see their own behaviour or the behaviour of those around them.  An awful lot of people grow up in terrible emotional conditions but this is forgotten about as soon as they reach 17 or 18 because the world says that when you get to that age you have to be responsible.  What if the person doesn’t know how to be responsible?  What if they are so preoccupied with a head full of negativity and guilt that they cannot gather the strength to do anything?

There is a notion in our society that there are a lot of people who are making excuses so they can do crime or get benefits etc etc.  This notion is directly linked to the blame culture.  The assumption being that they are doing it on purpose just to get a free ride and to make people pity them.  I know from experience that the homeless, the criminals and the addicts are actually suffering due to too many ill aeffects to mention and their behaviour, rather than being a way of getting something, is due to an inability to either understand or control their emotions.  We are not taught about our emotions.  People who blame others for making excuses should be careful themselves because making sweeping assumptions such as this do nothing except foster bad attitudes towards groups of people who are already finding life very difficult, the last thing they need is whole swathes of society hating them when they don’t even know them or know anything about what they have gone through. 

I think we all really need to start looking at ourselves and our childhoods especially.  This is something you should do for yourself because a lot of your behaviour is probably based upon very old negative energy which you have failed to address.  You don’t need to go around telling anyone about it just get to know yourself because the chances are that you have no idea who you are, chances are that you are relating ‘yourself’ directly to your emotions and thoughts but this is not the case.

How we see ourselves in relation to how we see other people is also very important.  Currently within our society there is an overwhelming notion that some people deserve to be in bad situations because of how they have behaved but of course when it comes to us looking at ourselves we are quick to make excuses and say that we have the right to be angry or depressed or in some mood or other.  Karma is real but just because someone is getting some kind of universal payback for something they have done wrong that does not give the rest of us the right to sit about pointing at them and making their hell as hellish as possible.  What if that person has mental or emotional difficulties which makes it almost impossible for them to control their behaviour?  What if they are self destructive due to the past?  None of this is ever considered because we live in a very judgemental world and just about all of us are judges to some degree.  Just as Karma is real for them though be mindful that it is also as real for you.  If you spend your life constantly looking at what others are doing wrong and gossiping and wishing pain onto others who you think ‘deserve it’ that negative energy will slowly turn you against yourself.  Sometimes you can be deeply unhappy without realising it and how you speak about and treat other human beings is harmful to your emotional wellbeing because deep down you know it’s not right, no matter how you are able to justify it or excuse it negativity begets itself.

If you find yourself spouting rhetoric about how inept the Politicians are or how bad the Foreigners are you may think you have a right to do this but you don’t.  I have noticed that most people who talk this way never do anything about it they just post their negativity on Facebook and quietly seethe.  If you think society is in a mess then go and do something about it, the voluntary sector is just full of organistions who would gladly avail of your services.  Sitting around pointing out what’s wrong with the world does not get anything done. 

Part of the reason I became so disillusioned with spoken word poetry was because of this.  I just got the feeling that even though a lot of people mean really well and write some beautiful poetry to share about the problems the world has many of them spend all their spare time getting drunk and gossiping about other people or getting themselves into bad relationships and just generally repeating cycles of pain and disgust without ever looking at themselves because you know what?  It’s always someone else fault.

How you treat others is a reflection of  how they will treat you.  I know this from experience, I hurt people and in the end it was actually me who was hurting myself because I was so unhappy that I was not able to treat them with the love and respect that they deserved and this was directly translated in how they behaved in return.  If you are constantly talking about other people the people who you are telling it to know that you’re unhappy and they’re probably giving you a by ball because they feel bad for you.  If you are alone and unhappy it is how you have been behaving which is the reason for that.  We all need to look at our own behaviour if we find ourselves in despair because most of the time it is something we are doing to ourselves rather than something that someone else is doing to us.

Each life you will live is short make the most of it.  Do not spend your time wishing pain onto others and plotting metaphorical revenge, smile and enjoy it.  Love those who are there for you and appreciate the beauty of our shared humanity and do something positive to help others instead of sitting around pretending to be angry.

Peace and love.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Identity and Place

I have been looking for sometime now at ideas surrounding identity not only in regard to myself and Northern Ireland or Ireland but more generally. I have been trying to get to grips with these concepts in much wider more inclusive modes of thought.  A firm belief of mine lies in the fact that people are naturally Tribal, often without realising that this is the case and all our difficulties stem from this Tribalism.  While differences are being celebrated even though there may be no apparent negativity, similarities are being forgotten and I really think we need to find some sort of balance between having an identity of our own while being accepting of the identities of others, including the lower classes and even the criminals within our own society.

I started off by using my knowledge of History and Geography to look for areas where humans have experienced displacement and conflict due to differing National identities.  While the closeness in the demographics of the Northern Irish situation are fascinating and somewhat very close to me personally I think that there are so many regions and peoples which should be looked at. Palestine and Israel, the Tyrol region of Italy, Rwandan Genocide and Catalonia in Spain are just a few of the places and scenarios I looked at to try and get a more global sense of these Tribal principles.  When you stop seeing people from different places as being somehow distinct and different you can then begin seeing how the mechanics of identity in the different regions of contention which creates a much more balanced view of what identity actually means to Human Beings despite  National, Cultural and Social differences and it really gives an overall sense that we are not as different as we perceive.

I have been embroiled in this continuous study for quite a while now and by chance a good friend of mine, Sophie Rasmussen, got a friend of hers, Maj Hasager, to come to Belfast with an exhibition about Identity and Place which is on until the 11th of April in The Red Barn Gallery.  The exhibition, which opened last night (Friday 7th), tackles the identities of generations of Palestinian people who were displaced during the creation of the Israeli state in the late 1940’s.  I found it refreshing because rather than focusing primarily on the conflict itself it looked more at the feelings of those involved.  Especially interesting were the supposed identities of many of the families of the Palestinian refuges, some of whom are still refugees even after all this time.  You get a real sense that by being displaced these people have completely lost their sense of self and are harking back to and identifying more and more with the places that their grand parents and sometimes great grandparents were ejected from over half a century ago.

Then today a group of us went on a tour taken by Sophie around Belfast to look at some of the social and cultural changes as well as new ideas that are being helped along by King Street Arts with regard to future regeneration.  The group was very diverse with as many people not from here as from here and we did a workshop afterwards in ‘Place’, which is in Fountain Street, if you get a chance to visit ‘Place’ do, it is an amazing project which would warrant much more attention than it is currently receiving.  I would urge more people to get involved in this type of thing.  The way our society functions is to a large degree based upon Individualism, our communities are eroded by this concept and how we live our lives is often very selfish and insular.  More needs to be done by all of us to stop things heading in the wrong direction because working only for the good of yourself and your family is not making things any better and being driven by nothing other than going out and socialising every weekend is doing absolutely nothing to advance society.

Our fascination with the past is something which is evident in Northern Ireland to a large degree.  I think there are kind of identity crises which happen in regions where two groups of distinct peoples find themselves living side by side.  It is almost like the presence of the other group creates a kind of insecurity which results in an over emphasis on peoples expression of their identity.  The recent issue with Flags in Belfast illustrates this perfectly.  People who are not of that community are confused as to why there is all this fuss over ‘a flag’, but it isn’t just a flag it is a very important and symbolic expression of that communities identity.  The Republican community, just like the Loyalists, are very driven towards expressions of their identity which take in Flags and Symbols and Marches. The past is also a very prevalent and regarded aspect which gives Loyalists and Republicans a real sense of who and what they are and most people who are not from either side cannot comprehend how or why these people would want to behave in such a way.  This inability by the rest of society to understand is making the problem here worse because we are simply pushing these people not only further away from mainstream society but further away from one another, in essence we are helping them to realise that all their fears are true, that they are not like us and they’re not like each other.  All of us need to be more inclusive not only in our actions but in our thinking because although we don’t care to admit it we are all part of one fragmented collective.

The wider branches of both the Irish and British communities here are as much a part of the conflict even though they may not realise it.  For instance moderate Catholics who avidly follow GAA may see this as being harmless but it is a direct identification of their Culture just as similarly minded Protestants would be more likely to follow the Ulster rugby team or Irish league Soccer.  Why am I even mentioning this some might wonder but how a person asserts their National identity is very important because it has wider implications as to where we are as a collective.  Though many moderately minded individuals may not harbour animosity toward the other side they are, by their very inclusion and participation in their own culture, adding to the general polarisation because those who are less moderately minded can see their Cultural expression as somehow threatening.

So much of the focus we have tends to be largely on how we are going to live together and how we are going to share this space but the crux of the problem is never really looked at.  A lot of people here simply refuse to speak about the troubles and this is unhelpful.  I remember during the troubles if you tried to speak about it certain pubs you would actually be told not to!  This is not going to change over night and if you really want change I am afraid you are going to have to change your own attitudes, you should maybe start with the misplaced belief that it has nothing to do with you because if you live here it has something to do with you, it’s about all of us and how we all interact collectively.

For those of us who believe that because we’re not Sectarian it is not our problem there is also an overriding notion about how Sectarianism manifests itself and what people who are Sectarian should and should not be doing.  We judge people by their actions as well as by who and what they are but we often completely overlook the fact that these people didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to start rioting.  Civil disobedience in this country is part of our way, I am not excusing it, I am merely looking at it realistically and rationally.  The polarised nature of our two War like communities here comes directly through History from a time when the whole of Europe was at War often with itself, people are quick to disregard History but it needs to be studied and understood and the present also needs to be put firmly in the context of the past or else we will never truly get to grips with our shattered country.

For most of Britain, Ireland and Europe the modern age is currently relatively calm and even, at times, prosperous but we are too quick to forget that it wasn’t always this way and indeed it will change again in the future.  Places like Northern Ireland seem to get stuck due to the demographics which end up playing out, when polarisation of peoples becomes a reality it is not something which can easily be tackled with rational and right thinking alone, we need to more accepting of the Social and Historical mechanics which made the conflict possible because these aspects are still present. 

If people would only look at History and the rest of the world they would become aware that the difficulties we face here are no different to the difficulties being faced everywhere, we are not unique.  The problems human beings are having are being faced because of peoples natural Tribal instincts and knowing that will change how people see conflict.  This is why differences need to be focused on less and that requires all of us to stop seeing ourselves as being somehow superior just because we are of a particular National Identity or Religion or Race. 

I do believe though that if we could sort out our own identities the rest would follow and while this may seem obvious and simplistic you have to think that it may not be as obvious as it would appear else we would simply not be having the difficulties that we are. 

Change begins with each of us and if we are not willing to change then how can we realistically expect others to?